Just beginning photography


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Aug 1, 2013
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southampton uk
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I bought a Canon EOS 650D about a month ago and have been using it in Auto mode.
I have been taking mainly wild life photos, Birds, squirrels, Dragonflies and butterflies.
Most sites that I have visited say that Auto is not as good as Manual mode.
Here's my dilemma, I have not a clue about Aperture, Shutter speed, IS0's or F.stops.
So I am asking ..... Which order of priority do I start to learn Manual first.
^^ Excellent tutorials on that 'site. In addition, you can find tutorials on every aspect of photography on YouTube; search terms such as "manual exposure", "aperture priority", etc.
Thank you for your prompt replies.
I am aware that there are many good sites and tutorials on the web, but
In what order of priority do I learn first Shutter speed, ISO, F.stops
This is all a bit confusing. I need to start one thing at a time and gradually pick it up.
All three at once is the only way. You're asking if you should learn the verbs first, or the nouns, of a new language. Shutter speed, aperture (f-stops) and ISO don't make any meaningful "sense" photographically unless you take them together.
Thanks for explaining it in layman's terms. I see what you mean now.
You do not have to start in manual mode. In fact, a lot of the photographers use other mode most of the time. The key is know how, why and when.

The first thing I think is understanding what is the effects of changing the Aperture, shutter speed and ISO and their relationship. Change one settings and keep other 2 constant and see.
I'm a fairly newbie so I'll chime in a bit. In short ...

All this stuff can get overwhelming and thus confusing. And I used to shoot film back a long time ago !!

The first mode I would tell you to try is Aperture Priority mode. On a Nikon this is normally "A" on the selector switch, Canon may be different like Av or something.

But the Aperture is a neat learning tool. Take a picture in the lowest aperture and take other pics in the higher apertures. I didn't see much of a difference until I bought a 50mm/1.8 lens. The 1.8 compared to a 11 is very drastic and I finally saw what people were talking about. But just compare the extremes then you will start seeing the difference on each stop.

Also, if you use a image viewer see if it has Properties. For instance, with Microsoft Office Picture Manager, File, Properties, then "More" on Camera properties it list the "Focal length" and "F-Number". You can get this on the camera too in addition to shutter speed.

But the Aperture is interesting to learn about putting foreground and background into focus or not. I found this interesting.

After you get comfortable with understanding how the Aperture affects the "depth of field" focus then

wander into Shutter Priority. Then you can learn about how the shutter speed affects the blurring. Such as blurring of water flow. Getting it sharp in focus versus showing some form of water flow. Take a picture of you shower on a fast shutter speed then start slowing the shutter speed down to get more blur of the water. Or a waterfall, or rocky stream works good too. :)

After that learn about ISO. This is probably set to AUTO. Learn to turn it OFF so you can manual set it.

If you can look at your previous pictures and see what the ISO setting was.
Basically the sensitivity to light. 100 being less sensitive to light, but good to use in bright light. And 800 being more sensitive to light and better in shadowy areas.

This will give you the basis to move into Manual Mode. If you get confused just go back to Auto or Aperture .... I used to do that all the time.

familiarity and being comfortable in understanding if you make a change in shutter, aperture, ISO and knowing how it will change is key. As you become more comfortable you will be in Manual more. It's taken me a long time but I'm starting to be more comfortable being in manual all the time.

and read anything you can get your hands on. YouTube has some excellent Videos. When I first started looking at YouTube I liked "DigitalRev" and "Jared Polin" stuff. It wasn't hard core and kinda funny
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I think manual mode can be quite tricky for a newbie photographer to get their head around. So I recommend using either aperture priority (AV on your mode dial) or shutter priority (TV on your mode dial). Aperture priority allows you to set how much of the image you want to be in focus (known as the depth of field) and the camera cleverly figures out the shutter speed to give a correct exposure. Whilst shutter priority allows you to set the shutter speed and the camera figures out the aperture.

Try this for starters: On a bright sunny day experiment with Shutter Priority, dial in a high shutter speed say 1/250 or more and take some shots. Check your shot, if the wings on your insects are blurry then you need to use a faster shutter speed. Up the shutter speed and give it another go. If you want a shallow depth of field in your images use aperture priority and dial in a low f-number eg F4.5 (this confusingly is known as a big aperture!) and snap away. The wide aperture will flood the camera with light so to compensate the camera will automatically use a fast shutter speed and hopefully freeze the motion of your insects.

Oh and for the moment set your ISO to 100 to preserve picture quality.

Good luck!
Personally i would really learn manual mode. If you can look at a scene you want to shoot, visualize it in your head what you want it in your head, set the camera, take one shot and get what you want.. then tou are ready. Shooting manual and chimp and adjust and shoot isnt the same.
I found myself lost trying to learn more than one thing at a time. After several months I decided to do just one thing at a time.

Since then I have learned so much faster, and I've been able to incorporate that "function" into what I do. Such as learning what each button on the camera is for, such as : matrix Metering. I would learn that one feature, learn to incorporate different modes into shoots.

Then after i'm comfortable I moved into the white balance button then exposure button, then flash exposure.
Each feature is quite amazing to add to your creativity. The important part is begin comfortable with each feature before adding something else.
If I wasn't comfortable I find myself lost while taking a picture and I just put it back into Auto to get the shot before it "left".

Slowly adding a function/feature at a time has really helped.
I agree Av mode and then into shutter priority, when you understand both of those then you have manual and just need to put the two together. You can also watch or review your shots on the histogram to see if you have any blown highlights right on the camera and adjust accordingly. Personally I prefer to shoot a bit on the dark side by at least 1/3 ev on the meter but thats a personal preference. Find what works best for you. And most importantly, have fun learning the camera and what it can do.
I rarely use manual mode. I DO use it, but usually because either I want the current settings to be fixed, or because I want special effects (like intentional under- or overexposure).

Most of the time I just decide about if I want depth of field control - thats aperture priority - or if I want certain shutter speeds, such as for sports, which means shutter priority.

Or I use program mode though I found this mode not really that useful in situations with changing light.
learn one thing at a time when your comfortable with that move on to the next, and practice practice practice. When i got my camera i found helpful to ask or tell myself why i was adjusting that and how it was going to effect the picture. in my head of course people already think im a bit nutz.
Oh and for the moment set your ISO to 100 to preserve picture quality.

On a 650D you can shoot at ISO 400 with no (discernible) loss of quality and you will avoid some missed shots due to motion blur from a slow shutter speed, or due to insufficient depth of field. Later, when you get to the point where you might notice a difference in quality between ISO 400 and 100 on the occasional image, you can lower the ISO when it is feasible to do so. In fact, if the light is anything less than bright sunlight, shooting at 800 probably makes sense.

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